Ways of Seeing: Abi Sessions, ‘Garden World’ counteracts Trump

It’s all Trump’s fault: my chronic stiff neck, the persistent headaches, the muscles in my shoulders as tight as steel cables. Those shoulders seized up on election night and haven’t let go yet.
The cracked tooth soon to be extracted — that’s his fault too. I’m sure the unconscious clenching of the jaw when I read the latest outrage or listen to his nasty voice has enough power to shatter the enamel of that previously healthy tooth.
It’s Trump’s fault that my winter projects at home aren’t finished. I have found it hard to get up the gumption to attack my to-do list when my heart is heavy and my mind uneasy. I’m unfocused. I can’t concentrate. Instead of being productive I cruise the online news like a junkie, or simply stare out the window feeling outraged, depressed and depleted.
My son-in-law recently posted photos of my sweet grandchildren posing for fake mug shots at a children’s museum. In ordinary times this would be cute and funny. But now, I reacted with a lump of dread in my throat and tears in my eyes. It’s too easy to see in these shots the faces of children being detained or deported for real, or to imagine these actual grandchildren in some dystopian totalitarian future, swept up in a raid of the “disloyal.”
Now, I am very aware that my personal Trump-related problems are molehills compared to the mountain of trouble he’s created for immigrants, minorities, people living in poverty, people who need health insurance, women who need birth control, and on and on — millions of my fellow citizens. I care about their welfare and I care about the future of our incredibly marvelous planet.
Living in Trump World is simply terrifying when you care.
Luckily, with the long-delayed arrival of spring, I have found a new world to live in — Garden World. It’s a beautiful world of my own creation, right here in Cornwall Vt.
My day in Garden World begins sitting in a bright yellow chair facing east, surrounded by equally bright yellow perennial alyssum, with the morning sun gently warming my face and body. We’re in lilac heaven this time of year, with their ever-present sweet cinnamony scent. Add in the soothing calls of robins, house sparrows, and mourning doves, and you have a little doorway from my front porch right into paradise.
A few steps will bring me to one of my favorite stone wall corners: graceful coral tulips, sturdy intensely purple grape hyacinth, with the spiky foliage of perennial geranium for contrast of texture and rhythm. In both morning and evening, there is a moment when the sunlight strikes just right and the tulips look like they’re lighted from within. I love these plants working together in harmonious arrangement.
Down in the lower garden we’re in the blue and purple phase, when dignified low maroon iris, the speckled foliage and miniature blue bells of pulmonaria, and exuberant bachelor’s buttons all tumble around together in joyful chaos under the old apple tree and the locusts. Peonies, poppies, and Siberian iris are on deck here, and further into summer, goat’s beard, phlox, and snakeroot will take us beautifully into fall, when globe thistle and the shrubs will kick in with their astonishing shapes and colors.
Isn’t this why gardeners garden — to create a world of delight? Of joy? A world to escape the real world for a few hours at a time?
My garden is a world where I am in charge without question — yes, little peony, you’ll be moving over here now, just because it will make this world a better place. My garden is a world where little things make my heart sing — yes, those new coral bells are the perfect complement to the plants nearby. My garden is a place where I’m always learning to improve — after five years of negotiation I have finally learned how to make the small rhododendron happy, and I’m rewarded with breathtaking blossoms.
And in my garden, on my knees with my hands in the soil, I feel connected to the land which sustains me, nourishes me, soothes me. In my garden I feel connected to all humanity everywhere, to all who have ever put a seed in the soil and waited. It is a hopeful practice, and hope is what I most need right now. And joy.
Abi Sessions is a retired educator who lives in Cornwall with her husband, Bill. If you wish to join others in Addison County with an interest in creating a welcoming community, please email Abi at [email protected].

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